Is my $100 dollar helmet as good as a $500 dollar helmet?
This question is asked a lot, finding a clear answer however remains somewhat difficult. That’s because the relationship of safety to cost isn’t linear. Spending more money won’t guarantee you a safer helmet. Confusing things more, there is no guarantee that less safe helmets won’t be sold at a higher price than a superior helmet.
Let’s compare Shoei to Speed and Strength
Shoei: helmets are covered by a five-year, limited warranty, and Shoei will repair or replace the helmet if it is found to suffer from flaws in materials or workmanship.
Speed and Strength: helmets are covered for a one- year period from the date of purchase to the Original Retail Purchaser. Warranty covers factory defects.
In a way you might say you’re paying $100 for each year you want the manufacturer to warranty the helmet. If you began spending $100 on the Speed and Strength helmet, using their own warranty, you should probably replace it each year. Over the same 5 year period that’s $500 to get the same warranty of craftsmanship as the higher quality Shoei. The warranty is the company of course saying ‘here is how long we know our product should last’. What we see here is a huge difference on what the two companies are saying about their products.
Shoei: According to Shoei, you are getting a real world tested, piece of equipment developed using computer simulations and wind tunnel technology. The helmet is tested against air flows created on different motorcycles and windscreens. This company puts a great deal of resources into developing a safe, quiet and comfortable helmet.
Speed and Strength: I couldn’t locate anything about their research and development by visiting their site. I’m sure they don’t blindly build a product, it is tested and they seek to get certified as well, but this is not an area they are boasting about.
The Bottom line
Buy a helmet close to the date it was manufactured. Helmets like all petroleum based products break down over time. Ultra-violet rays, weather, sweat and detergents do more to break down a helmet than sitting in a box in a retail store, but that doesn’t mean breakdown isn’t occurring all the time. Pay attention to when the helmet was made, some manufacturer like Shoei make it easy to identify when the helmet was produced so you can choose wisely. Others not so much, it’s up to you to know what you’re buying.
Be aware that even the rating system has flaws. A helmet may be superior in safety but not receive Snell certification because it features a flip down sun visor, an instant fail feature. While the rating stamp is convenient, it should not be the sole decider. Those stamps are for convenience, once you are serious about your safety gear then take the time to research before you buy.
Don’t cheap out on protecting your head, do your due diligence and don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because you ponied up a little more for your gear, you have defied the laws of physics. Crashing sucks no matter what, whatever price tier you decide to spend in, spend well because its your head on the line.
The manufacturer sites
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